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Dame Marie Rambert (20 February 1888 – 12 June 1982) was a Polish-Jewish dancer and dance pedagogue who exerted a great influence on British ballet, both as a dancer and teacher.

Early years and background

Born to a Russian mother and a Jewish-Polish father she was originally named, Cyvia Rambam in Warsawmarker, Congress Polandmarker, Russian Empiremarker. Her father and his siblings had to later change their last names for specific political reasons. Her father changed his to Ramberg, one of his brothers went to Rambert, and the last changed his name to Warszawski. Cyvia changed her name to Myriam Ramberg, and finally left it as Marie Rambert. In later years Marie was known to friends and dancers as Mim. She met her husband Ashley Dukes, a soldier on leave, at a dinner party in 1917. In Rambert’s autobiography she says "after four days of personal meetings, and seven months of correspondence we were married on March 3, 1918." partly as a joke so that Dukes could get 4 weeks of extended leave instead of 2 days. Their marriage lasted 41 years, until he died in 1959, leaving behind Marie and their two girls Angela and Helena, whom they called Lulu.


Rambert began her dance training in her schooling early on. Subjects like foreign languages and history seemed to come easy; however she was a restless child and ended up getting bad marks because of her endless movements during class. At one point in her early training her dance instructor stated that ‘In her, was the true spirit of dance.’ She was not impressed with the structure and performance of ballet, and was not drawn into dance as a passion until she became enthralled by Isadora Duncan when she attended one of Duncan's performances, and was ‘profoundly moved by the beauty of Duncan’s dance.’ After becoming active in political riots, and the tragic day of May Day, Rambert’s parents urged her at one point to move to Parismarker and take up medicine while safely living with her aunt and uncle who were also doctors. She attended a party where she danced a mazurka and danced it with such liveliness that there was applause afterwards; this was her first performance, whether she thought it or not. She met Raymond Duncan, brother of Isadora, at this same party, who congratulated her on a wonderful performance, and again she was back into her passion for dance. She studied with Madame Rat from the Paris Opera, and later studied with Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, at Dalcroze College who introduced her to eurhythmics. One day at the Dalcroze College, Sergei Diaghilev, watched a class and then asked her to come back to Berlin and study with him in the Ballet Russes. There Rambert aided them with figuring out Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with Nijinsky. She hesitantly accepted and collaborated with Les Ballets Russes led by Diaghilev, 1912-13. In Ballet Russes she was in the corps de ballet for ballet performances such as Swan Lake, Giselle, and Scheherazade. After a tour with Nijinsky and Ballet Russes, Marie’s contract was not continued and she decided it was time for a new chapter. In 1914 she moved to the United Kingdommarker, and studied under Enrico Cecchetti.

Formation of Company and Members

After studying with Cecchetti, she went back to study with Madame Rat at the Paris Opera, and took her studies quite seriously. She began teaching more ballet classes in 1919 and later founded her own ballet school in Bedford Gardens. In 1926 she created her own company, originally named Ballet Club. It has been through many name changes, much like Rambert herself. The company began performing at night revues in London. The first informal show was performed in Riverside Nights at the Lyric Theatre, and continued with the nightly revues for awhile. She began finding new and promising dancers and choreographers in numerous places, such as Frederick Ashton to be a part of her company and gave them a chance to grow. From Marie Rambert Dancers the company changed to Ballet Rambert and is now called Rambert Dance Company, a modern dance company. It was the first ballet company in Britain . Ballet Rambert really kicked off its company performance with Frederick Ashton’s ‘A Tragedy of Fashion’ in 1926. Ashley, Marie’s husband renovated a building and made it into Mercury Theatre, where the majority of Ballet Rambert’s performance occurred. It was said that ‘Notting Hill Gate, where the Mercury Theatre stood, was on the slopes of Olympus’ . Ballet Rambert has performed such ballets as Coppelia, as well as Balanchine’s Night Shadow. Marie Rambert was adamant about finding new and upcoming choreographers. Some of her students and later her colleagues included Frederick Ashton, Antony Tudor, and Agnes de Mille, to name a few. In 1965 Rambert, with the help of ‘Norman Morrice, her newest discovery, completely reorganized the company to stress modern dance’ The repertoire of the company eventually came back to more contemporary ballets, but still has a vast list of pieces that the company has performed throughout the years. She cooperated in Millicent Hodson to restore Nijinsky's choreography of The Rite of Spring in 1979. The restoration of choreography was completed in 1987.

Marie Rambert is known for helping to create and keep the ballet community strong in Britain. ‘The creation of Ballet in Britain is one of the grandest achievements in the artistic annals of our centure. It is owed absolutely to the idealism which fired Marie Rambert and Ninette de Valois’  who was the founder of what became The Royal Ballet.


  1. Marie Rambert, "Quicksilver: Autobiography" (London , St. Martin 's Press, 1972),94.
  2. Mary Clark and Marie Rambert "Dancers of Mercury; the story of Ballet Rambert" (London , A. and C. Black,1962)15.
  3. Marie Rambert, "Quicksilver",24.
  4. Jane Pritchard, "Rambert: A Celebration of the Company’s First Seventy Years" (London, Rambert Dance Company 1996)13-20.
  5. Jane Pritchard, "Celebration",12.
  6. Jack Anderson,"Ballet and Modern Dance: A Concise History", (Princeton, NJ Princeton Book Company, 1986), 185.
  7. Jane Pritchard, "Celebration", 16.


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